Anniversary of Columbine highlights concerns about school safety


Allyson Bonhaus

CHECK IN. The new lobby has improved security measures, but every school needs the help of the government to really protect students. Stricter gun laws would help prevent almost military-grade weapons from getting into the wrong hands. No matter how many safety measures are put in, none can trump gun control.

Full disclaimer: I was not alive in 1999, and I can only imagine what reaction the tragedy at Columbine had from the perspective of someone who was alive for seven out of 12 of the deadliest mass shootings.

  Students want more than zero tolerance policies, clear backpacks, and deadlocked school doors. These precautions do not remove the danger.

  There are roughly 1,800 students/staff at SHS. I do not know every face, and I doubt one person in this school (student or staff) knows each face.

  So how can we tell when someone does not belong here? How can we tell that one of our peers is at a breaking point? I want to believe my peers are never capable of staging a mass shooting, but I do not think the students at Columbine or Marjory Stoneman Douglas did either.

What happened?

  Like any other day, 12 students came into school nervous about a project or a test coming up while a teacher walked into school and greeted his students. This should have been a normal school day.

  But it was on April 20, 1999 that those 12 students and one teacher were killed after two of their peers/students came in with the intent to kill. SWAT did not come into the school for nearly an hour. And the warning signs seemed endless after the fact.

  And yet there was still some way for those two students to get their hands on guns. The world was shocked: how could this have happened in a school?

  “We didn’t have the Internet, so there were a lot of rumors floating around,” said Mrs. Laura Newton, who was a student teacher at the time.

  The “trench coat killers” left fear of goth culture, trench coats, and kids who “looked like they might bring a gun.” Lives were changed after this, and some schools became fortresses instead of respected places of knowledge and community.

   Meanwhile, this event has shaped new protocols for active shooter situations. But the shootings and fear have not changed how Congress sees guns.

  It has been 19 years and Columbine, which was once one of the deadliest school shootings in history, is no longer in the top ten deadliest mass shootings. How many times must records be broken for the number of students killed before there is change?

  “It was scary because it was the first one, and we didn’t know how to react because we had never experienced something like that before,” Newton said.

  But now society is intimately aware of school shootings, and yet it seems Congressmen still do not know how to react.

Students remember the lives lost

  On April 20, 2018, students will walk out again, and no, it has nothing to do with marijuana. It has to do with how students do not feel safe in their schools.

  This was organized by student Lane Murdock in Ridgefield High School with a few of her classmates, and over 2,000 events have been planned across the United States.

  Students are not looking for any excuse to leave school; they are looking for someone who has open ears. Students are leaving their schools because it is no safer in school than being outside of school.

  Students are never safe as long as there are semi-automatic weapons and bump stocks in civilian hands. No one is.

  Did anyone feel safe after Columbine? Sandy Hook? Parkland?

  Columbine was supposed to change things…so was Sandy Hook and so were all the other shootings.

  I was not alive in 1999 when these 13 lost their lives, but I have seen news packages that seem unending with counts of casualties from mass shootings. When will it stop? Will it ever?

  Maybe society is stuck between safety and rights; maybe policymakers are testing the waters of how long students will continue the fight. The thing is that students at Columbine did not have such a powerful Internet to campaign on, the elementary kids at Sandy Hook were not old enough, but the students today around the world see that it could just as easily be them.

  Students realize that this could be their school they are running out of with their hands raised; there are students’ lives on the line, so students will force the change. It is time to pick the moral path for there are no party lines on the right side of history.

  When we walked out out on March 14, the world remembered the 17 lives gone, taken by gun violence in order to never forget what guns took from the world. No one should forget the lives lost in Columbine either.

  When society forgets their names, people forget why anyone is fighting for gun control. Society forgets the 12 students could have been any student. That is why students are walking out again, so that those 12 and the 17 at Parkland, and everyone in between, before, and after will remember the lives cut too short.